Introducing Curonian Spit National Park
The Curonian Spit National Park (Kuršių Nerijos Nacionalinis Parkas) was established in 1991 to protect the rare ecosystems found on Curonian Spit, including the sand dunes, the Curonian Lagoon and the surrounding sea. It covers most of the Lithuanian section of the spit, running from the village of Smiltynė in the north down to Nida, 50km to the south.
The park is refreshingly wild and undeveloped. Pine forests filled with deer, elk and wild boar cover about 70% of the park. Sand dunes make up 25% of it. Just a small fraction is urban, namely four main villages – Nida, Juodkrantė, Pervalka and Preila – known collectively on maps and signs as ‘Neringa’. The main industry is tourism, centred around the villages of Nida and Juodkrantė, a double-edged sword that yields both its main source of income and its biggest environmental threat.
Up until the first decades of the 20th century, most of the spit was German territory. The area used to have a hugely magnetic attraction for German exiles, and continues to attract a large number of German tourists to this day.
These days, Lithuania shares the spit with the Russian-controlled Kaliningrad Region. A road runs the whole length of the spit all the way to Kaliningrad and indeed, with the proper paperwork, it’s possible to combine a visit to the spit with a mini-trip to Russia.